Queen Rania’s speech at the 2002 AUB Alumni Association of North America Gala Dinner - NY, USA

November 14, 2002

I am an AUC graduate, and you having me here tonight just says a lot about the broad-mindedness of an AUB education. Thank you, Dick [Dr. Richard Debs]. I am delighted to be here. I thank all of you for this warm welcome.

I want everyone to look around this room and think for a moment about all you represent. Arabs and Americans, men and women, executives and diplomats, and humanitarians and leaders.

You, and the great university that brings you here together, are really a microcosm of the kind of world that I think all of us want to live in. A world where people value the strengths of different nations, faiths, and cultures…where self-confidence and creativity are celebrated…where people are open to others and generous with their talent.

As a graduate of another great American University in the Middle East, I feel I know a little bit about this spirit. And I’d like you to know that who you are and what you do has never been more important to our world.

Back during the Cold War, the Berlin Wall served as a symbol for the division of the world into East and West. Last week, we celebrated the 13th anniversary of its fall. But even before the Wall came down, there were a few checkpoints where people could travel between the sectors, meet, and communicate. 

Today, we see our world threatened by new divisions. Both in the West and in the Middle East, there have been misunderstandings and mistrust. Yet, the walls are not built; the gates are not yet closed. Your university, and you yourselves, provide an important bridge linking cultures and continents. And through you, our world is building another, all-important bridge to the future.

The fact is, that in the relationship between the West and its Arab friends, your education and experience have given you a unique contribution to make.

First is your ability to understand the issues in all their complexity and depth. America is not a simple place and neither is the Arab World. Good decisions will require the ability to think critically and clearly, to open our minds to each other, to listen carefully and well. Helping people to look beyond the latest news stories and issues, to see our inter-relationship at its deepest levels. In all these ways, AUB has prepared its graduates to make a tremendous impact for good.

Second is your ability to interpret and give voice to two worlds – American and Arab – both their differences and all that we share. Call it bilingualism, not just in language, but also by insight.

A few years ago, the distinguished scholar Edward Said spoke to graduating AUB students. He urged them not to accept the idea of a “clash of civilizations.” Instead, he said, we need a dialogue of civilizations. I heartily agree. So let us speak out, and be full participants in that dialogue, not silent partners. That means having a voice in the exchange of ideas that are forming our world.

Today, billions of people benefit from American values of openness, innovation, and private enterprise, and its leadership on behalf of freedom. The ideal “of the people, by the people, for the people” is known all over the world. I believe the world can also benefit from Arab values and leadership – our fundamental belief in human equality and our true tradition of tolerance…our widespread practice of charity…not as paternalism; not simply as social obligation; but as an expression of common humanity. 

This leads me to another bridge we must build, a bridge to a better future for all. Clearly, if our young people are to benefit from the opportunities of the 21st Century, they must have 21st Century knowledge and skills. And universities like AUB play a critical role.  Providing teachers – and teachers of teachers. Training doctors and health care professionals, engineers and computer scientists, artists and curators, public policy experts and business innovators. And many more.

There’s an old story about Charles Eliot, who was President of Harvard for many years. Someone praised him for all he had done to make his university a “storehouse of knowledge.” He replied, “What you say is true, but I can claim little credit for it.  It is simply that the freshmen bring so much…and the seniors take so little away.”

Well, AUB has recycled its storehouse of knowledge…graduating leaders who have made a difference in the Arab World and far beyond. In Jordan alone, AUB has given us physicians and prime ministers, senators and government officials, humanitarians and teachers. Today alone, our minister of education, Khaled Touqan, was educated at AUB…as was our foreign minister, someone many of you know, Marwan Muasher, as was the author of the UNDP Arab Human Development Report, Dr. Rima Khalaf who also served as deputy Prime Minister in Jordan.

All these and other members of the AUB family carry into the world the rich values of their education – reason, a questioning spirit, and respect for others. The Middle East is better for it…and when I look around this room, it is clear how much the United States itself has benefited.

And, when we think about AUB’s impact, we should remember just what your university has gone through to bring all this about. Enduring so many challenges, including civil war. Surviving tough economic conditions. Upholding the life of the mind against the advocates of violence.

At the heart of AUB’s resilience is a great commitment, a commitment to keeping the doors open…to students, to scholars, to ideas, to service. It is a model for all educational institutions that seek to prepare today’s young men and women to succeed.

Thirteen years ago this month, when the Berlin Wall came down, millions celebrated. It was the end of years of unproductive isolation and conflict.Well, today, we have a chance, not simply to bring global walls down, but to keep them from ever being raised.

And of course, we must do all we can to help. To give young Arabs – and Americans – access to the best education the world can offer. To connect and communicate. To be confident in their great heritage. And to be leaders in the global struggle for the peaceful, prosperous world we seek.

For all that you have already done to help create that future, let us celebrate tonight. Your work and your leadership have built the bridges. Together, let us keep them open and strong.

Thank you ver